Somalia’s National Theater in Mogadishu held a landmark event Wednesday night, screening movies for the first time in three decades.
The theater was recently renovated and reopened after being destroyed twice – once in Somalia’s civil war, and then again in a 2012 suicide bombing.
More than 1,500 people attended the screenings.
The two films, Hoos, meaning “shadow” in Somali, and the other, Date of Hell, were screened in the Chinese-built theater constructed in 1967.
Starring Egypt-based actor Kaifa Jama, the short films depict some of the challenges faced by young Somalis brought up outside the country and who are not familiar with Somali and Islamic culture.
Jama said the films were produced in Cairo with no resources and largely on volunteers among her peers, with no payment for actors and actresses. She said the producers convinced hotels and hospitals to let them film on their grounds in exchange for advertisements in order to avoid extra costs.
The theater also used volunteers for its reconstruction, which was overseen by the government. The building was completely destroyed during Somalia’s civil war in the early 1990s. It was rebuilt in 2012, only to be ruined again at its reopening after being targeted by an al-Shabab suicide bomber. Then-Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali survived the explosion, but dozens of others died.
For this renovation, workers installed some 1,500 new seats. The theater officially reopened last year and has hosted graduation ceremonies for local schools.
According to organizers, more than 1,000 tickets were sold for Wednesday night’s screenings.
Among the participants was Ilham Mohamud.
The moviegoer said she was very happy and excited to be at the national theater for the first time in her life. She said she felt patriotic regarding the progress that is continuously made in her country.
Information and Culture Minister Osman Dube said the theater will host more events in coming weeks. He said the theater is expected to showcase films, plays, poetry, book fairs and comedy that reflect Islamic and Somali culture.